Making friends can be challenging.
Especially as a kid, and particularly when you might see the world a little differently than those around you.
So, you find the one friend
The new friend is shy and reserved and doesn’t make other friends easily either.
Over time, the relationship becomes less enjoyable and more hurtful, but that other person needs you right?
What happens when you see this happening to someone you love? How do you step in?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Strange_Atmosphere14 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for making my son spend time with other friends?”
OP began with a clarification.
“I’m not banning my son from hanging out with this friend, we’ll call him Hank, altogether, just limiting it.”
“Hank might have some sort of disability.”
“I don’t know the correct terminology.”
She then explained her reasoning.
“But, Hank is very clingy and needy.”
“He’s always saying things like ‘You’re my best friend, am I your best friend?’ And saying what he would sacrifice for my son and asking weird hypotheticals.”
“It’s exhausting just listening to these interactions, much less experiencing them.”
“I noticed my son wasn’t spending time with his other friends, because he always needed to be with Hank, who has no other friends.”
“And Hank doesn’t want to hang out with my son’s other friends.”
“So, I told my son he needs to learn to prioritize himself and take time for his other friends and his hobbies and not constantly babysit Hank’s insecurities.”
“My son said he would feel guilty, and he doesn’t want Hank to feel rejected.”
“I said to tell Hank that hangouts are limited to twice a week, and not on both weekend days, per his mother, because that’s the new rule.”
OP also explained the results this has had on her son.
“Although my son frequently says he feels guilty and asks for an exception because ‘Hank says he feels really down right now’ I’ve noticed he also seems happier and more energetic.”
“He looks more well-rested and isn’t getting his schoolwork done at the last second anymore.”
“My husband thinks I’m being too controlling, and our son is too old to tell him who to hang out with.”
“The other boy’s mother also reached out to me and said she wants to talk, although I haven’t responded yet.”
“I assume she disapproves.”
“Even my son, who admitted he is less stressed now, said he feels guilty and I am being ‘mean.”‘
“But am I?”
“It’s hard to argue with a majority, but also, it’s hard to argue with results?”
OP was left to wonder,
“Am I being a b*tch to this poor kid?”
“Sorry, I forgot to include my son’s age.”
“He is fourteen.”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Some pointed out that Hank and OP’s son may have deeper issues.
“Your son is being treated like an emotional support animal, and is being isolated.”
“It might not be intentional, but it’s still happening.”
“Your son feeling guilty about not being able to be with Hank all the time, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for him to be with Hank all the time.”
“Frankly, it sounds akin to an abusive relationship. (Feel too guilty to leave, isolation, being someone’s only ‘support system’, etc)”
“Hank needs to talk to a therapist, or an adult in his life, or something.”
“But all of Hank’s problems are not your sons problems.”
“And if Hank refuses to hang out with other kids, it’s not on your son to placate his anxiety every time.”
“I see people saying ‘Y T A, Hank is insecure :(.’ But that doesn’t mean your child has to be his crutch.” ~ SnakeSnoobies
“Please consider getting someone for your son to talk to and get help navigating this.”
“I know this sub jumps to therapy all the time but I think a counselor could help your son with the tools to navigate this situation.”
“This same dynamic can repeat throughout life” ~ blueheronflight
“Really want to echo this.”
“Hank may have some type of disability but that doesn’t mean Hank can’t learn to have other people around.”
“It’s also not your kids responsibility to teach him that.”
“But honestly the red flags are screaming at me.”
“This sounds like an abusive relationship.”
“And let me tell you, it can and does start with kids that young. I was in one with my ‘best friend’ who I met at 13-14 and only cut off at 30”
“What you are doing is really good for your son and definitely NTA.”
“It’s not controlling.”
“But I think it’s also worth talking to your son about those boundaries and learning to spot these kind of things so he can arm himself from the abusive friendships in the future.” ~ CapnRaye
There were also personal stories.
“I had a ‘friend’ at school who didn’t want me to have any other friends. It’s a form of bullying and it shouldn’t be entertained for a moment.”
“Last I heard of my former ‘friend’, she was emotionally abusing her poor husband the same way.” ~MichaSound
“I remember as young as fourth and fifth grade having friends who were abusive and manipulative.”
“I wish my mom had done more to explain why the friend behaviors weren’t normal or cool, instead of just saying ‘I don’t like her being friends with you.”‘
“I absolutely would have understood a conversation about how others treat you is as important as how you treat others, and what is acceptable and what isn’t.”
“It really shaped and affected my trust in people, and I saw the same patterns in future friend groups until I was in my 20s and started figuring it out myself.”
“It was a lot to undo by myself, and I wish my mom was like OP and told me that I should not accept that as being the norm in my relationships.”
“And that I have to take care of myself too instead of having an impossibly long list of people who come before me.” ~ TheBeesKneazles
“My daughter was in a situation like this.”
“Her friend used her as a crutch, having no other friends of her own, but she started feeling entitled to my daughter’s attention and has since done some very manipulative things no one thought a 10-year-old could have been capable of.”
“All because my daughter wanted to play with other kids.”
“It hurt my daughter because she had always been the other girl’s only friend up to that point, sticking up for her and everything.”
“Don’t ever let your child play with another child exclusively when your child obviously wants to socialise with others.”
“It sends the message to the other child that they are somehow entitled to your kid’s exclusive attention and that’s very unhealthy.” ~ cottondragons
Others saw this as a teachable moment.
“’YTA, Hank is insecure :(.’ But that doesn’t mean your child has to be his crutch.”‘
“Valuable lesson for all. When it comes to friendships, romantic relationships, or even professional ones.”
“You can’t infinitely and actively sacrifice for someone.”
“You deserve support and happiness too.”
“You can’t help someone that is unwilling to help themselves and 100% of that responsibility on you to make their life tolerable.” ~ letstrythisagain30
“This is a great opportunity to teach your kid about codependency and emotional vampires.”
“Hank may not be doing it on purpose, but the kid clearly needs professional help—OP’s kid is not the solution to his problems.”
“It’s too bad that the son has been made to believe that he is.” ~ effluviastical
Some felt that Hank’s mom should be more involved.
“Jumping on top comment.”
“It is healthy and encouraged for kids to have other emotional/physical outlets then the one friend they go to every time they ‘just need to talk’ or ‘I just want to hang out and get away from my family for a bit”‘.
“Hank’s mom is setting him up for failure by not encouraging him to A. Not make other friends to hang out with;
“And B. If it truly is THAT difficult for Hank to make friends/socialize, she needs to get him therapy instead of relying on your son.”
“Your son deserves a childhood that doesn’t revolve around being the emotional crutch of Hank.”
“And Hank deserves the chance at a childhood where he has at least a few friends who don’t grow to resent him because he is becoming toxic and relying on them to be his emotional support in situations.”
“When he should be talking to someone with professional training and the ability to help him through it that isn’t also his friend.” ~ alphaowlboy
“Hank’s mom could even kill 2 birds with one stone and get Hank in group therapy.”
“That way, Hank has a safe, controlled environment in which to attempt to make friends (or at least learn the skills to make friends).” ~ verdantwitch
“OP, you’re doing great with these boundaries.”
“The next step is help your son set his own boundaries, an incredibly helpful life skill, especially when he’s as caring as you describe him to be.”
“I hope you can help him understand what healthy relationships and friendships look like, for example that guilt is given to him by another party for selfish reasons and that the guilt is not his fault or other mechanisms behind this kind of (unintended) emotional manipulation” ~ 3vinator
There are a lot of factors at play here.
Boundaries are so important in situations like this because in trying our best to help someone else we could end up hurting ourselves.
Remember to be kind, but remember to be safe.